In a world where brands must be truthful in order to maintain the trust of their audience, a podcast can be the perfect medium.
Much has been written about how corporations need to learn to be more truthful, in order to innovate effectively, retain trust, and remain competitive. If you don’t believe me – you can check out Accenture’s Competitive Agility Index — a 7,000-company, 20-industry analysis. This study tangibly quantified how a decline in stakeholder trust impacts a company’s financial performance to the tune of $180 billion in missed revenues. Or, you can just ask Volkswagen.
Lack of trust = bad (duh…)
So, what can companies do to ensure that they are trusted? Besides encouraging an internal culture of safety around sharing negative or critical opinions, brands can also get into the habit of “embracing their shadow side” when it comes to external communication forms like branded podcasting. This means letting go of the mast of corporate-speak in order to float freely on the sea of authentic conversation.
It means taking a creative risk every now and then, even if it brings about mixed results.
It means talking about the tough stuff, even if it feels awkward at first.
It means stepping outside of their comfort zone.
Safe doesn’t mean successful.
Brands often ask themselves why they should get involved in potentially fraught conversations, or take creative risks.
Isn’t it safer to stick to a thoroughly vetted corporate script? You know… the one carefully designed to be all sunshine and no rain, and to offend no-one?
The answer to this question is, emphatically, no. Especially if those brands want to attract a younger audience.
The rise of Gen Z
We know that as Generation Z fights to have their voices heard, we’re seeing a marked increase in expectations around truth-telling. In a McKinsey-led study of the consumer behaviours and values of Gen Z, they note:
Gen Zers value individual expression and avoid labels. They mobilize themselves for a variety of causes. They believe profoundly in the efficacy of dialogue to solve conflicts and improve the world. Finally, they make decisions and relate to institutions in a highly analytical and pragmatic way. That is why, for us, Gen Z is “True Gen.”
Enter True Gen.
True Gen…AKA the “No Bullshit Generation.”
If you have one of these proud creatures at home, you’ll recognize the truth of this character sketch. And looking around, we see brands testing the waters with truth-telling campaigns, and coming out on top.
Nike’s ad supporting Colin Kaepernick resulted in $163 million in earned media, a $6 billion brand value increase, and a 31% boost in sales…in just 1 year. Not to mention a heightened awareness of a critical race issue.
Was it a flawlessly executed campaign? No. There were legitimate criticisms.
Did Nike make enemies? Of course. Fox News was all a-flutter.
But in the words of Nike founder Phil Knight, “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand if enough people love it.”
Podcasts are nuanced.
Look, we get it. Not every brand has the cajones to launch a massive “cause marketing” campaign, or the financial resilience to withstand the ensuing public critique. But there – right there – is where branded podcasts can, and do come in.
A podcast is a nuanced form of communication. There’s room in a podcast to introduce dissenting views, even some controversy, but couched with the proper context and explained carefully to the listener.
In fact, many of the corporate clients we work with include a short disclaimer emphasizing that “the opinions expressed in the podcast are not that of the company” at the request of their legal team. So be it. But the listener is still engaged. The authentic conversations taking place within the “bumpers” of the branded podcast still offer tangible value by getting listeners to learn, think, and empathize.
How about an example?
There’s a top-ranking podcast from ABC Australia called “Stuff the British Stole”. In it, host Marc Fennell examines the sordid colonial history of various and sundry objets found in western museums.
Imagine how this looks for the museums involved? (see: British Museum)
Now imagine how it would have looked if they had gotten out in front of this story, embraced their “shadowy history” and produced the podcast themselves?
Instead of being caught out, they could have been lauded for their leadership in opening up important conversations about the legacy of colonialism. The British Museum should have sponsored this podcast. They should have thought of it first. Instead, they clung to the mast and let the Australian national broadcaster do it.
This is an opportunity for brands.
A podcast offers brands a chance to step deliberately, and with purpose, into the complex and nuanced discourse of the times, and to help break down those belief silos that limit our progress as a species. Essentially, the primary question brands should consider before making a podcast is “which conversation interests us most?” All brands need to do is identify a topic or issue they care about, open their doors to credible thinkers and talkers who are active in that area, hire great audio storytellers to bring it all together for an audience, then get out of their own way. If they can do this, they can successfully position themselves inside truthful conversations that really matter, and in doing so, earn the respect of their audience.
Ready to spread the gospel of truth? Contact our team.
Jen Moss is the Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer of JAR Audio